“A living man declared dead and other chapters”

Taryn Simon Video

Image of Taryn Simon

For the task which we have been given this week, I chose to use a video about Taryn Simon talking about her work “A living man declared dead and other chapters”, which is about charting family bloodlines and their related stories. She travelled the world and it was produced over a four year period (2008-2011). It was shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, before being moved to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

These are my questions and answers to the video.


What was the intention of the work and what type of photography is being explored?

Simon mixed text with portrait photography to create this work. The intention was to create a series of work which charts family bloodlines. The collection maps relationships between chance, blood and other elements of fate.


Did you understand the issues covered/intended to come across from the review?

If I were to visit the exhibition I think that I would understand the issues of the work which are intended to come across because of the three sections the work is split into; the portrait pattern, text panel and footnotes. Taryn Simon explained these sections in great detail which makes it easy to understand.


Is the reviewer’s opinion the most important part of the review or is it the factual and descriptive elements of the review that are most important?

Taryn Simon does not say much about her own opinion of her work; she tends to stay with the factual and descriptive elements of her work, which was what it was all about. I think that this was important as it leaves the viewer to create their own opinion whilst knowing what it is about, whereas so many other works do not give you the background so you are more free to your own interpretation. I think this work is particularly important to know the background story because Simon has added the text panel and footnotes to the images. If this was not necessary to add to the images then she would not have done so. I think that it gives the portraits meaning.


Why was it presented in this way?

The portraits show members of the family arranged in 18 horizontal family trees. They are shot on a neutral, cream background to eliminate environment and context. Some portraits are left empty and this represents the living members of the bloodline who were unable to be photographed. Included in the text panel is the reason for their absence, such as dengue fever, military service, imprisonment and women having not been granted permission to be photographed due to religious and social reasons. The text panel is in list form with corresponding information to go with the portraits. Finally, the footnotes include images representing fragments of stories and the beginning of others.


Image of “A living man declared dead and other chapters” exhibition